Movie theater: men’s basketball Duke can tap into Kentucky’s underperforming defense


With Duke men’s basketball first regular season game against Kentucky at Madison Square Garden just around the corner, the Blue Zone takes a peek at a movie to analyze what the Blue Devil loyalists may be up to. wait for Tuesday:

After a disappointing 2020-21 season in which the Wildcats only finished 9-16, head coach John Calipari has decided to step away from building a much-vaunted one-and-dones squad. . This strategy has worked for many years for the best programs in the country, but has recently faltered slightly, especially when put to the test against experienced upper class teams. During the offseason, Kentucky acquired four key transfers: astute playmaker Sahvir Wheeler of Georgia, snipers CJ Fredrick of Iowa and Kellan Grady of Davidson, and great Oscar Tshiebwe of West Virginia.

On paper, this is a very dangerous Kentucky team. Wheeler, Fredrick, and Tshiebwe are juniors, and Grady joins guard Davion Mintz as two of the team’s graduate students. With just three freshmen, even on the roster, this is a much more seasoned Kentucky team than the one we’ve seen in a long time. Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of the squad, however, is the fact that Calipari’s squad, which typically focus primarily on defense, has the potential to be one of the three-way shooters. best performing points in the country.

Although the game against Duke at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 9 is the Wildcats’ first regular-season game, the team have faced two Division II opponents in pre-season exhibition games. Although he dominated both Kentucky Wesleyan College and Miles College, Kentucky’s stacked roster was not as dominant as expected, which led to some key points that could come into play in their Champions Classic clash. with Duke.

At its best, the Kentucky offense looked as scary as expected. The Wildcats seem very comfortable shooting beyond the arc and seem to plan to do so early and often. Led by Grady, Wheeler, five-star rookie TyTy Washington Jr. and junior forward Keion Brooks Jr., the team shot a respectable 36.8% of 3 in the Kentucky-Wesleyan game, then a dazzling 50.0. % distance against Miles. When settled in and clicked, the Wildcats moved the ball very well, penetrating the dribble and then kicking a shooter, even performing simple plays to open someone.

The first clip is a great example of dribbling training defense, leading to a wide open 3. Mintz grabs the ball from Washington’s left wing, which is on top of the key. Mintz jab takes a step outside and then walks to the middle, getting a step on his defender and forcing Washington to help him. Washington does the wise thing and slides slightly to the right and prepares for the shot, taking even more distance from his man who assists the ball and gives Mintz an easy kick for the shot. It doesn’t hurt that Washington shot a 100% clear of three in the two exhibition games combined. While there is nothing revolutionary about this tactic, it works so well because as soon as the defense is out of position, for a decent shooting team, lots of high percentage outside shots are created.

The second clip was perhaps the Wildcats’ best game of the season so far, a board game developed and executed to perfection. Wheeler starts with the ball at the top of the sideline, but then passes it to Tshiebwe at the top post. Meanwhile, Keion Brooks very exaggeratedly sets up an off-ball screen in the corner to free Kellan Grady for a shot. As expected, Brooks grabs Grady’s man onscreen, and Grady runs and takes over from Tshiebwe. At this point, the entire defense is expecting Grady to shoot, resulting in a double engagement on Grady. This forces Brooks’ man to cover Tshiebwe rolling towards the basket, leaving Brooks literally all alone in the corner, where he receives Grady’s pass and knocks down the 3.

While Kentucky’s offense seemed explosive but refined, its defense was not as convincing. Duke was able to effectively take out his exposure opponent D-II, keeping Winston-Salem State just 13 points in the first half and 22% shots for the game. Kentucky didn’t look so dominant defensively in both games, but were particularly slow against Miles College, allowing them to shoot 11-15 of 3 in the first half. The Wildcats lost 7 at halftime for a single-digit victory.

The team seems to lack both speed and communication. Miles burned Kentucky on the perimeter on several occasions, taking advantage of slow rotations and lethargic closures to light them up from the deepest. This was illustrated right at the end of the first half in the clip below.

The assist defense is also often late and poorly coordinated, allowing for easy finishes around the basket. This was evident in both games, and can be seen here against Kentucky Wesleyan.

Ultimately Kentucky have the parts to be one of the best teams in the country and will undoubtedly test the Blue Devils in their first real game of the season, especially if CJ Fredrick is cleared to play. However, if Duke is able to play quickly right off the jump, they may be able to take advantage of Kentucky’s so far lackluster defense and set the tone for the game early on.

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